From Be Thou My Breastplate, by Paul Wallis
Let the vision that the people of Heaven have be in these eyes. (Fursa’s Breastplate)
A thousand years after Fursa’s time, in a town southwest of Fursa’s English domain, another great pastor, Richard Baxter, would memorably say, “Heaven will more than compensate any loss we suffer to gain it. But nothing could ever compensate the loss of Heaven.” Such vision brought that man the courage to endure slander, danger, and imprisonment in exchange for the freedom to cling to faith in Christ alone as his hope of Heaven. This he believed and this he preached. And he did so fearlessly because of that perspective.
Fursa’s world was also one in which the missionary might pay a high price for preaching the promise of Heaven through Christ alone. The cost would be determined by the shifting religious landscape among the clan leaders and local kings of the day. Whether the region was under the sway of a regime friendly or hostile to the Gospel could swiftly change with the falling of a local crown. The uncertainties of those dark ages would have paralyzed any preacher whose goal was a quiet and easy life. This is why Fursa prays that his life will not be led by whatever the winds of royal fortune might make politic or opportune in that moment. He prays instead that he will be defined and driven by a heavenly vision.
Maybe Fursa is praying for a precise vision of God’s will for which he can then labor and that he can strive to bring about on Earth. Perhaps his request is for a taste of God’s love for all people to fill his own heart as a pastor and evangelist. It may be that what Fursa has in mind is Heaven’s ability to see beyond the end of time: to the return of Christ to judge the world; to the end of all suffering and injustice. A vision such as that would certainly give a Christian soul courage for the journey of faith.
In the fullness of time, Fursa was to be granted exactly those visions during his extended times alone with God, his body stretched out in his cell, immobilized by an apparent fever, lying unconscious to this world. We can only wonder if Fursa knew that such mystical privileges could be granted him when he first made this bold request of God. But what is easy to see from the reports of his peers is that these supernaturally altered perceptions were a powerful motivation to Fursa to continue exerting himself in his work of preaching and planting, with ever greater fervor and faith. It is therefore with a practical outcome in mind, that I can join with him in praying: “Let the vision that the people of Heaven have be in these eyes.”